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Mount Pleasant residents will not vote in April about whether or not they support exploring an independent school district, but some trustees believe they have enough support to move forward with a feasibility study anyway.
The villages of Caledonia and Sturtevant will have advisory referendums on the April ballot. Trustees there say the referendums are necessary before either community budgets for a feasibility study. Caledonia leaders also say getting a positive vote on the referendum would help trigger discussions in Madison about changing current law that leaves final decisions on breaking up school districts to the current district’s board of education.
Village Administrator Kurt Wahlen told The Journal Times last week that a referendum in Mount Pleasant is a “moot point” because the law hasn’t been changed.
A feasibility study could cost upwards of $30,000, but the impact on communities would be less if they partnered to pay for it.
Trustee Gary Feest said he doesn’t come down on one side of the issue or the other because he wants to know what residents want him to do.
“I want to know who on the village board decided that we weren’t going to have a referendum,” he said. “It is a slap in the face of village residents that a secret society here decided we weren’t going to have a referendum. Why should we spend the money on a study we don’t even know our residents want us to do? It’s putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion.”
Board members David DeGroot and Anna Marie Clausen said they would support participating in a school district funding study even as they wait to see what happens in Caledonia and Sturtevant.
“I think we need to understand the financials,” Clausen said. “Without the legislative changes, though, we’re waiting to see what Caledonia and Sturtevant do.”
DeGroot, the trustee who has lead the charge for discussions, said he believes the board will support a study without a referendum.
“I am still interested in doing the study before a referendum,” he confirmed.
Rick McCluskey said he would support the study if he knew there was resident support behind it and/or trustees felt strongly enough about spending the money.
“I just need to know that people want it,” he said.
Sonny Havn said he wants more information – including the potential costs of a study and feedback from residents – before he would agree to paying for a study.
“I’ve talked to some residents, and they don’t seem to have any real interest in going further,” he said. “So if we were going to start talking about a study, I would need more input from residents because this would really be their money we’re spending.”
Trustee John Hewitt is vehemently opposed to breaking up Racine Unified so he would oppose both a referendum and funding a study.
“I don’t want to be part of an elitist school district that caters to students who already get the attention and support they need at home,” he told Racine County Eye. “The real problems in Unified start with the lack of interested parents, and I don’t know how to solve that, but splitting up the district isn’t the answer.”